Free interactive activities, online games and web-based puzzles are a growing segment of the internet today. Teachers must however, evaluate the appropriateness and relevance of each website for their students. Unwanted ads, incorrect content or difficulty level as well as promotion or marketing of products need to be carefully screened. Games are highly motivational for children and adults alike. It is not just that it is fun. More often, it is being given a puzzle to solve, a challenge to overcome, a score to beat or the possibility of being top of the leader board that provide many of us with a purpose for stubbornly focusing on the gaming task. The motivation is in meeting the challenge and making progress.

Prof. D Moursund, of Oregon University’s College of Education writes: In recent years, a number of educators and educational researchers have come to realize that games can be an important component of both informal and formal education. Crossword puzzles build skills in vocabulary, reasoning, spelling, and word attack. As Kerry Jones explains, correctly deciphering a crossword requires exact spelling, which for students may mean practising spelling words and dictionary skills.  Other important skills required for completing these puzzles include making inferences, evaluating choices and drawing conclusions. Puzzle solving is a much more active type of learning, and will engage students with the material more than passive types of review techniques do. Crossword puzzles also have the advantage of appealing to different learning styles. 

As technology, and in particular, Web 2.0 tools, improve and multiply, educators need to monitor the free resources available and utilize the growing number of powerful, motivating and engaging games and interactive activities on offer.

References 

Introduction to Using Games in Education: A Guide for Teachers and Parents; Dave Moursund

Teaching with Crossword Puzzles; Kerry Jones www.vocabulary.co.il.

Websites to try –

Puzzlemaker: create crosswords and word puzzles using your own word lists puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com/CrissCrossSetupForm.asp  

Vocabulary Can Be Fun: range of crosswords under themes. Also has 2 levels of difficulty. www.vocabulary.co.il/games2/crosswords/index.php

Online Sudoku: complete online or print out. www.puzzlechoice.com/pc/Sudoku_Puzzlex.html

Chinese Tangrams: complete online. www.apples4theteacher.com/chinese-tangrams.html  

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